Remember: if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!
Our clinic has received an increased number of complaints relating to a variety of financial scams. Scammers are taking advantage of the COVID‑19 pandemic by sending fraudulent emails and phone calls that attempt to trick you sending them money, or to disclose your personal and financial information, so that they can use this for their financial gain. Common telephone and internet scams include:
- Tactic: Scammer pretends to be the government, your bank, your employer, someone you owe money to, or an old friend. They use phone calls, emails, and websites to trick you into sharing your personal information
- Result: They steal your identity and may open credit card and bank accounts, make purchases, or use your social security number.
- Tactic:Scammer pretends to be a telemarketing service – and asks you for your bank account or credit card information
- Result:Your credit card or debit card info is stolen and used to make purchases.
- Prizes and Lottery
- Tactic: Scammer tells you that you won a prize (e.g.,the lottery, cash, a car, or vacation). In order to collect the prize, you must pay a small fee, in which the scammer takes your credit card information.
- Result:You will not receive the prize, but the scammer will make charges on your credit card. If you sent money, you would not get it back.
- “CRA” Scam
- Tactic: Scammer pretends to be calling from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) and claimsthat your file with the CRA is under investigation, that you owe money to the Government of Canada, or that you owe taxes and are in trouble with the tax department. They will ask you to give them your credit card or banking information, or even send you to a fake website that looks exactly like the CRA website.
- Result: Your credit card and payment information are taken by the scammer and used to make purchases.
- Postal Packages
- Tactic: Scammer sends a text, phone call, or email that you owe a small fee to pick up a postal package. They usually claim to be from Canada Post or another courier company.
- Result: Victims pay the fee over a link sent by the scammer. The scammer steals the payment information and takes money from the victim.
- Emergency or “Grandparent” Scam
- Tactic: Scammer pretends to be a relative in trouble and asks you to send money because of an accident, an arrest, or an injury.
- Result: This is a way for scammers to get access to your bank account and use this information to make purchases or take money.
- “Chinese Consulate Scam”
- Tactic: Scammer claims to be calling from the Chinese Consulate and alleges that you have been implicated in some financial crime, or that your passport or other ID was used to open a bank account that is associated with illegal activities. They tell the victim that ‘an investigation has been commenced against them,” and that if the victim does not co-operate, their global assets may be “frozen” and that they may be extradited to China. They will usually ask the victim to send large amounts of money through bank wire or e-transfer, and falsely assures the victim that the money will be returned to them after the investigation is over. In order to convince the victim, they may produce fake documentation such as police warrants, Interpol warrants, or links to fake websites that look very much like the Chinese government’s website.
- Result: Victims are tricked into sending large sums of money to the scammers, which is often unrecoverable even if the Chinese police get involved, as the scammers will quickly withdraw the money from the bank account upon receipt.
- Real Estate Scam
- Tactic: A real estate or mortgage agent approaches the victim with a “lucrative real estate investment opportunity.” They tell the victim that a property can be ‘flipped” for a large profit, or that the home can be leased for rental income, while the property appreciates in value. The real estate and/or the mortgage agent convinces clients to sign the mortgage and closing documents. Meanwhile, the victim does not fully understand the nature of the documents they are signing, nor its legal consequences.
- Result: We have seen clients who, after the real estate transaction is completed, find out that they are on the hook for the entire amount of the mortgage, while owning no equity of the home. That is because, in the closing process, the documents were arranged so that the victim only took legal title to the property, while beneficial ownership was registered in other people’s names.
What to Do if You are a Victim of a Scam:
- If you are a victim of phishing, report the identity theft to the police
- Contact any financial institutions, credit card issuers, and companies that are involved
- Cancel missing identification
- Report the identity theft to government agencies:
- The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre gathers information about identify theft and gives advice and help to victims. Call at 1-888-495-8501 or visit www.antifraudcentre-centreantifraude.ca
- The Competition Bureau handles complaints about some scams and deceptive marketing practices. Call at 1-800-348-5358 or visit www.competitionbureau.gc.ca
- The Ministry of Government and Consumer Services can be contacted to warn other people about the scam. Call at 416-326-8800 or toll-free at 1-800-889-9768. You can also visit www.ontario.ca/consumer
- Contact the credit reporting agencies:
- Equifax at 1-800-465-7166 or www.equifax.ca
- TransUnion at 1-800-663-9980 or www.transunion.ca
CSALC encourages individuals to contact the clinic if they have any questions regarding scams. If you are non-English speaking and speak one of the languages in our client communities (Vietnamese, Laotian, Khmer, or Chinese), please call our legal clinic at 416-971-9674. If you are English-speaking, you can call your local community legal clinic.